Lexus undergoes its own transformation

The UX concept will be the basis for a crossover in the 2019 or 2020 model year.

Lexus is undergoing its own transformation with the move to a new modular platform known as GA-L, for Global Architecture-Luxury. The transition of all of its unibody vehicles to the new platform gives Lexus the opportunity to deliver on promises to offer sportier vehicles that it says represent the future of the brand.

The first Lexus to roll out the new architecture was the new LC500, a nearly $100,000 halo coupe. The second is the LS flagship sedan. But GA-L will find its way onto more affordable vehicles, beginning with the NX crossover and the coming all-new UX subcompact crossover. Lexus’ commitment to a sportier identity will come through as existing models are re-engineered onto GA-L and the brand has the opportunity to offer “F” performance packages on more models.


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CT/UX: The entry-level CT compact is discontinued for the 2018 model year, which is not a surprise since the words “hybrid” and “car” are unfashionable in today’s market. In its place will come a subcompact crossover based on the wild UX concept, for the 2019 or 2020 model year. The UX will ride on Lexus’ version of the Toyota New Global Architecture, or TNGA, found in the new C-HR. That means that the UX will start life on a modern chassis with room for fine tuning, and perhaps a performance version beyond the styling elements of the F-Sport.

IS: Refreshed for the 2016 model year and not doing great on the sales charts, the compact sedan is likely to remain mostly unchanged until it is redesigned in 2019 or 2020 onto the new global platform. For 2018, the IS 200t with the turbo four-cylinder engine is renamed the IS 300. Models with the V-6 get five more hp. The IS 350 F-Sport package gets a limited-slip differential.

ES: The midsize sedan received a light refresh for 2016 along with its Toyota sibling, the Avalon. Both are produced in Georgetown, Ky., along with the closely related Camry that was redesigned on the TNGA platform. The Avalon is next to move to TNGA next year and the ES follows around the same time to Lexus’ GA-L. Styling for the slab-sided ES should get a major workover. Changes for the 2018 model year are limited to trim packages and infotainment.

GS:​ Refreshed for the 2016 model year, the base 200t gets a name change to the GS 300. All models get infotainment updates. The GS-F performance model also carries over with few changes. Like all unibody Lexus, the GS is in line for a move to the new GA-L architecture once its current lifecycle is over in 2019 or so.

LS 500: The redesigned flagship sedan goes on sale early next year with lots of new stuff, including a more stylized body, a new twin-turbo V-6 engine and a ready-to-go F-Sport package. There’s also a new hybrid drivetrain. It seems like a full F performance variant is a no-brainer for a company that wants to compete with the sporty Germans.

RC: The two-door coupe was new for 2015 and carries over with minor changes for the 2018 model year. The RC 200t is renamed the RC 300. Models with the V-6 engine get five more hp. The navigation screen grows to 10.25 inches from 7 inches with the new Enform infotainment system. On its current lifecycle, the RC is up for a refresh for 2019 or 2020. It could be redesigned onto the GA-L platform in 2021.

LC 500: The halo coupe is all-new for 2018 and off to a solid gallop with more than 400 units sold in June. It is also the first Lexus on the new global platform and surely the best-looking this side of the limited-edition LFA supercar that inspired it. Blessed with the 5.0-liter V-8 from the RC F and GS F, the halo coupe is expected to put some further distance from its lesser siblings by eventually getting an F variant with a forced-induction ​version of the V-8.

The freshened 2018 NX includes updated styling and interior.

NX: The segment-leading NX is freshened for 2018 with updated styling, interior touches, a new infotainment system and safety features. The NX 200t gets a name change to NX 300. With its RAV4 sibling moving to the new TNGA architecture as part of a redesign next year, the NX will likely make its move to the GA-L counterpart in time to debut as a 2020 or a 2021 model.

RX:​ With a full redesign for the 2016 model year, Lexus’ top seller carries over for 2018 with updates to its Enform infotainment and more available amenities on the base model and the hybrid. Looking at a typical six-year cycle, the next generation could show up in 2021 unless it jumps to GA-L sooner. The RX looks like a good candidate for full “F” treatment, which would send a powerful message to sporty segment rivals such as the BMW X5 and Audi Q5.

Look for a promised three-row RX — badly wanted by dealers — to appear at an auto show by the end of the year and on sale in 2018.

GX: Based on the 4Runner, Lexus’ midsize body-on-frame SUV is getting long in the tooth, with its last refresh in 2014. It continues, however, to ride the trend toward light trucks. Perhaps only a shift in that trend will push Toyota/Lexus to update the model beyond updating some seat materials for 2018. Assuming a decadelong cycle for the chassis, look for a new GX in 2020 for the 2021 model year. Maybe.

LX: Lexus actually outsells the Toyota version of this body-on-frame Goliath, the Land Cruiser, in the large premium SUV category. Both were freshened for 2016, with the Lexus getting the big spindle grille. For the 2018 model year, the Lexus carries over with some Enform infotainment updates. A redesign could come with other body-on-frame platforms, such as the Toyota Tundra pickup. The Tundra is due for a new generation in 2019 or 2020.